Nitro's new Robert C. Byrd Boat Launch will become the focus of many community activities, if Kelly Pruett, executive director of the Nitro Convention and Visitors Bureau, has anything to do with it. The bureau will christen the $400,000 facility this weekend with a bass fishing tournament.
Plans call for the dock just downstream from the ramp to become a stopping point for the sternwheeler Spirit of West Virginia.
The facility has paved parking for up to 72 boat-vehicle combinations, and a gravel overflow lot that can accommodate at least that many more.
NITRO, W.Va. -- If Nitro's boat ramp launches tourism as efficiently as it launches bass boats, city officials will be happy indeed.The spanking-new $400,000 facility, built last year and completed this past spring, hosts its first official event -- a bass fishing tournament -- Friday and Saturday. Kelly Pruett, executive director of the Nitro Convention and Visitors Bureau, said the two-day event kicks off some ambitious plans for the former landfill."We plan to hold twice-yearly tournaments, one in the spring and one in the fall," Pruett said. "The Nitro Development Authority is planning to install 11 to 15 boat slips where people can dock their boats during the summer, and we're developing a small riverside park and picnicking area just downstream from the ramp."Pruett said the ramp would also become a regular stop for the sternwheeler Spirit of West Virginia."We'll have business cruises, weddings and things like that launching from our dock," she added. "We ultimately plan to run shuttles so passengers can get from the dock to our downtown shopping and antique area."First on the agenda, though, is the bass tournament. Bill Javins, secretary for the CVB, said the event would kick off Friday with a 5 to 7 p.m. cookout for the participants."The cookout will be held at the ramp, and we'll have drawings for $400 worth of door prizes at the cookout," he said. "Then we'll hold a meeting at 7:30 at the former Nitro Community Center gymnasium so all the fishermen can register for the tournament and pay their fees."
Javins said the $90-per-boat entry fees would come back to the top finishers in the form of prize money."If we reach our maximum of 70 boats, that would mean $6,300 in prize money, because this is a '100 percent payback' tournament. We're anticipating payouts for the top seven boats if we reach the 70-boat maximum. There will also be an optional $10-per-person pot that will go to the angler who catches the biggest bass."The tournament itself will begin at 7 a.m. Saturday. Javins said anglers would launch their boats in groups to avoid congestion at the put-in site. The weigh-in is scheduled to begin at 3 p.m. and will conclude after the last group of fishermen returns.Javins said anglers can get more detailed information about the tournament by calling 304-539-5211 or 304-563-3301.The Robert C. Byrd Boat Launch was built just off Main Avenue on a "brownfield," an area previously contaminated by chemical waste.The state Division of Environmental Protection, the Division of Natural Resources and FMC Corp. cooperated to cap the former city landfill and to install the ramp, a dock, a paved parking area for 72 boats and a gravel overflow parking area for at least that many more.Pruett said the CVB wants to make the facility a focal point for special events. "We have this really nice place, with a nice location on the river and lots of parking," she said. "We want to get the word out about it. This weekend's tournament is the first step."Reach John McCoy at email@example.com or 304-348-1231.